Q and A with MBA/MEd Dual Degree Students

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Darden offers several dual-degree programs in connection with other schools at the University of Virginia. These dual-degree programs are designed to enhance the educational experience beyond what could be achieved if the two degrees were pursued independently (not to mention, in many cases, reduce the time it would take to earn both degrees separately). Second Year students Jack McDermott and Samantha Firstenberg are MBA/MEd students, and they recently shared insights about their experiences as both Darden MBAs and UVA School of Education and Human Development students. Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications

Jack McDermott (Class of 2021)


Jack McDermott (Class of 2021)

Hometown: Medfield, Massachusetts

Undergrad: Tufts

Pre-Darden Professional Background: Education technology (Panorama Education)

Why Darden? Why a dual degree?

Darden offers an unparalleled opportunity to learn at both one of the best business schools in the country, as well as one of the best graduate education programs while in a naturally beautiful and vibrant community. It was a no-brainer for me.

How are the dual-degree students integrated in the main Darden cohort?

Because Darden has so many dual degree students, it feels like a community unto itself. Often times, during case discussions, dual degrees within a specific area (medicine, education, law) will be specifically asked for their view on a key question or case-related point of discussion.

How are you managing the workload? Do you feel that you are missing out on experiences from either of the program?

The only aspect of the experience that I feel I’m missing out on at the School of Education is in-person learning. The entire first year of the M.Ed dual degree program is virtual, which is not ideal for feeling a connection to Education/those students there, especially because the Grounds are set apart and Darden is so intensive/in-person during core.

If you could go back to the start of your program, what would you do differently to get the most out of your experience?

I would try to lean in even more heavily into the dual nature of the degree and the student cohort. That is, forming small group dinners and discussions. Finding ways to connect with other dual degrees (MPP, JD) that are related to our MEd field of study.

Advice to prospective students considering dual-degree:

Have a clear grasp on what you hope to gain from each side of your dual degree. If you understand the why behind each degree independently, it will allow to you to make more meaningful connections between the two fields of study, instead of hoping that the dual nature of the degree itself makes those connections for you.

Samantha Firstenberg (Class of 2021)


Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland

Undergrad: Georgetown University, Harvard Graduate School of Education


Samantha Firstenberg (Class of 2021)

Pre-Darden Professional Background: Higher education data analytics; 6th grade math & science teacher

Why Darden? Why a dual degree?

The landscape of higher education from Pre-K through post-secondary is remarkably slow to change. Our system at every level needs to be more flexible, adaptable, and agile. I knew that pursuing a dual degree MBA/M.Ed. would help me cultivate a wide array of skill sets in business and social enterprises that would help me fuel change. I was drawn to Darden for many of the most common reasons including the community and the case method. Additionally, in choosing the program I would attend, I looked at how the two degrees and curriculums had the potential to integrate and determined that UVA offered the greatest opportunity on that front.

How are you managing the workload? Do you feel that you are missing out on experiences from either of the program?

The MBA/M.Ed. program is set up really intentionally so that you don’t miss out on formational experiences such as FY core. You begin your education coursework the summer prior to entering Darden, which allows you to focus solely on Darden during the first two quarters of FY. Then, you return to School of Education coursework in the spring, but it’s only one class and quite manageable with the way that the course is formatted (and it is with the program advisor who understands the demands of Darden). I strategically chose to take a few education courses during the summer between FY and SY so that I could enroll in more Darden classes during SY and still have a manageable workload. I think that will have been a decision that proves to be quite fruitful in maximizing opportunity across both programs.

How have you utilized your dual-degree and leveraged your connections at each school in your internship/job search process?

One of the greatest things about being a dual degree program is that it “doubles” your network. You can leverage contacts, alums, career services, faculty, etc. from two different schools in the internship/job search process. There is also a dual degree program-specific cohort that is always happy to help connect you to their networks.

Since I am looking to go into higher education post-Darden, I worked on an Enterprise Consulting project this summer as part of the Darden Impact Internship program. This has helped me develop relationships with administrators and faculty, get practical, real-world experience, and put a lot of what I learned in FY and in my School of Education classes to work.

If you could go back to the start of your program, what would you do differently to get the most out of your experience?

Two things: (1) I would have chosen my School of Education coursework for the summer before Darden more carefully and ensured that I spent enough time preparing for Darden and (2) I would have gotten more involved with the School of Education earlier on. It is easy to get really involved with Darden during your FY and miss out on cool speakers and interesting events at other UVA schools.

Advice to prospective students considering dual-degree:

1. Make sure that you research and understand all the program requirements
2. Talk to current dual degree students to get a sense of how they balance their workload
3. (MOST IMPORTANT) Really reflect on why you want to do a dual degree/what you are hoping to get out of both degrees and make sure you choose the program that is aligned with those things. Being a dual degree student at a rigorous business school is a challenging experience and there is no way around that fact. Make sure the investment you are going to make with your time, money, and emotional/intellectual effort is going to get you what you want/need and help propel you to where you want to go.

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The post Q and A with MBA/MEd Dual Degree Students first appeared on Discover Darden.

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